Could You Home Educate Your Kids?

Ah, the weekly return to school. For every parent saying how relieved they are, there’s another telling me they wish they could home educate. So why don't they?  Comments range from not having enough time, not knowing how to do it/having enough knowledge to teach their children, to not bearing being around their kids 24/7 and needing a break from them.

I can’t do much for those who don’t want to be around their children, as there’s no-one’s company I enjoy more, but I can assure those who are still dreading every school morning that they don’t need to be an expert on a dozen subjects in order to facilitate their children’s learning. You just have to listen.

We don’t teach, ever. We simply accompany our children in their wonder at the world and when they ask a question, we help them find out the answer – why are those things called bollards was one of  yesterday’s missions, leading to a lengthy discussion about the origins of English, invasions, other cultures etc (bollard is from the Old Norse bolr).

“Don't teach. Just look at *everything* with new eyes.... Just live life amazed.” Joyce Fetteroll

On the other hand, a little boy at soft play earlier in the week was looking at the clock on the wall and asking his mother about numbers and time. She ignored him and carried on looking at her phone. Unschoolers wouldn’t exactly leap on those questions, but we would look at the clock with the child, talk about it and let them think and ask more questions. This may last two minutes or half a day, but it would open up the opportunity to explore numbers and time in other ways and other opportunities.  Most parents are doing this with their children from birth, home ed/unschooling is just an extension of that.

As for enjoying their company, well I happen to think the humans I have created are amazing. Am I with them, engaging and doing all the time? No. I do laundry, I work, I even manage to drink tea and read a book sometimes. They are busy playing (the work of childhood, as Maria Montessori said), discovering, looking at books, watching TV, drawing, writing etc.  Learning, learning, learning...

I know it’s not that common to have all of your children with you 24/7, but for us it’s wonderful. Yes, there are moments when everything seems too much, but usually it’s because I have let work take over too much of my time or let some of our systems slip and, once those are back in place it’s all OK again. For us, organisation is definitely key to calm and happiness.

To be perfectly honest, I would find it far more stressful trying to get everyone out the door at whatever time to get to whatever institution, then sit wondering what on earth was happening to them all day long. I had to make one packed lunch last summer when the girls went to their aunt’s for the day, and that was far more challenging than planning a whole week in our normal life!

As for what we learn, anything and everything! Lara’s autism means that she feels better with some structure so, although we unschool in that we follow the girls’ interests, there is a rhythm to our weeks and days and advance planning is essential. But we don’t follow a curriculum or have any deadlines or tests to work to, so we go at our own pace.

We live life and have the pleasure of seeing our children learn as we go. Their learning is sparked by things they see, hear and do, without a list of what they ‘should’ know or have poured into them. We treat them as fully rounded individuals with their own passions and interests, not as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge we have. Learning is child-led.

At the moment, that means little maths, other than real world, but lots of reading and books and letters. We don’t teach though, we watch learning unfolding before us and act as facilitators to that as and when required. Much of our week is spent outdoors, we go on adventures big and small, and enjoy a lifestyle of freedom and slowness. When we are at home we play, read, watch and talk, learning and discovering together.

Don’t think of home education as ‘educating’ children, they are not empty vessels to be filled with knowledge. Questions about what to teach them, how to teach it and following a prescribed list of information to pour into them are irrelevant. Learning is not done to children, they learn all the time, just as they did as babies, without leading and guidance. Just live life and learning will happen, we simply follow their interests and let them lead.

Home educated children don’t need someone who knows all the answers, they need someone to travel alongside them listening to their questions, wondering about the world with them, and helping them discover what they want to know. Any committed, loving parent can do that. Children’s questions don’t require a finite factual answer, they invite possibility and discovery and wonder and more whys, what ifs and hows than you could ever imagine. Learning isn’t about answers, it’s about questions. Encourage those questions, listen to them, ask more open-ended questions, and you will foster all the curiosity, wonder and learning

For us, handing the most important years of our children’s growth, development and learning over to someone else was never an option. If you are having issues with the education system and considering taking your child out, it is possible, it is legal, and it is amazing.

You can find out more from Education Otherwise and Home Education UK.

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